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Raheem Morris: Ronde Barber will be back with Tampa Bay Buccaneers next season

TAMPA — Bucs coach Raheem Morris is known for his sound bites, and he pumped up the volume Tuesday about cornerback Ronde Barber.

Morris said Barber plans to return for his 15th season. The five-time Pro Bowl player and last link to the Bucs' Super Bowl championship team is 35 and a free agent who has not reached an agreement on a new contract.

But Morris said he has no doubt Barber will be the Bucs' starting right cornerback in 2011.

"He's coming back," Morris said of Barber from the East-West Shrine Game workouts in Orlando.

"He's playing. Now it's just a matter of what he's playing for. I'm really confident that he's playing, and I feel great about it."

Barber was the Bucs' third-leading tackler with 81 and second on the club with three interceptions. He has played 208 straight games, including 183 consecutive starts.

Barber was appearing on ESPN2's First Take on Tuesday and was unavailable for comment. But after the Bucs' win at New Orleans in the final regular-season game, he wouldn't rule out returning.

The Bucs have committed to a youth movement and have three young corners who have had playing time: Aqib Talib, E.J. Biggers and Myron Lewis.

But Morris made it clear Tuesday that Barber's role would not change in 2011.

"It's just a matter of deciding how much he's worth and all that. But our starting right cornerback will be back," Morris said. "He'll be our starting right corner as long as he keeps playing at a high level."

General manager Mark Dominik noted in his end of the season address that Barber played some of his best football in the final month of the season, when many veterans fade.

Morris believes Barber could play several more years but that he won't stay too long like many stars.

"He's going to tell you when he's done," Morris said. "He sees it a lot better than most players."

Morris said his coaching staff will be mostly intact. Linebackers coach Joe Baker, tight ends coach Alfredo Roberts and running backs coach Steve Logan signed new contracts to remain with the team.

Defensive line coach Todd Wash will not return (the Seattle Times reported that the Seahawks hired him Tuesday for the same position), and special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia has taken a similar job with the San Diego Chargers. Morris said he will hire a defensive line coach and defensive quality control coach who will assist with the position.

Morris said he might interview college assistant coaches for those positions.

"I like to scour," Morris said. "I'm looking for a (Eric) Yarber-type. I'm looking for a Raheem Morris-type — those hungry guys. I am going to go the Patriot way. That has worked for them."

Dwayne Stukes, a five-year assistant, will take over from Bisaccia, who felt he could help his chances of becoming a head coach by working with the Chargers, Morris said.

"That shouldn't surprise anybody. Rich has been one of those fence guys for the last five years. 'I'm leaving, I'm leaving, I'm leaving, okay, I'm staying.'

"I don't know that he wants a change of scenery; he wants to be a head coach. In order to do that, he thinks he's got to go and meet other people, get involved with different organizations. There's nothing else, I guess, he can do from Tampa. I think it's a really good move for him."

Barber's resume also is pretty complete as a Buc, and while he insists his decision to play won't be financially driven, he knows the price for resuming his career.

"It's got to be mutually beneficial," Barber said after his final game of the 2010 season. "That's the name of the game."

Raheem Morris: Ronde Barber will be back with Tampa Bay Buccaneers next season 01/18/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 18, 2011 11:57pm]
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